Stoli Hot Vodka Review

stoli hot

 

In the world of flavored vodkas, there seems to be an arms race between the different vodka companies to see who can take the craziest, sweetest junk food and turn it into a 70 proof mixer for cocktails. Not that there is anything wrong with the novelty of having a donut, fruit loop, or gummy bear flavored drink but I am surprised there haven’t been more vodkas trying to fill the niche in the other direction. Stoli Hot is a jalapeño-flavored vodka that seems to be attempting to do just that. As far as I can tell it is one of only a few non-sweet flavored vodkas out there and the only one with a significant heat.

Stolichnaya is a Russian vodka that has been around since 1948. It is a wheat vodka and has a nice mouth feel with a slightly sweet taste and I think this actually makes the jalapeño flavor work even better. The level of heat is a good one. It is a heat that is present but won’t be overpowering to most people. I found it far less hot than actual  jalapeño and it quickly cools when mixed with something else. If you can take a little tabasco sauce this won’t be challenging at all.

The flavor is basically jalapeño but with a sweet finish. It has Stoli’s thicker mouth feel and is very smooth. The burn comes from the pepper, not the alcohol. I found that a bloody mary works really well with Stoli Hot. For the show we used Mr. and Mrs. T’s Hot Bloody Mary mix and the added Stoli Hot gave it quite a kick. If you like extra heat with your bloody mary this is a great choice for you.

In mixed drinks and cocktails a lot of the flavors that work well with jalapeño will work well here. Fruity drinks work better than I would have thought. I made a “Stoli Red” which is just the Stoli Hot mixed with cranberry juice and it was pretty nice. I think pineapple and lime would be particularly nice. I made a jalapeño martini by just using gin and the Stoli Hot in a 2:1 ratio and it was actually too bland. A dash of bitters helped but I would recommend mixing it at a higher proportion of Stoli and maybe not leaving out the vermouth. I’ve also though that using it in a chocolate drink might be nice. Sort of an Aztec-chocolate flavored drink. I will have to work on that and get back to you.

Overall, I think that this is a good bottle to have in your mixing toolkit. Jalapeño is a great flavor to add to a drink and it has not been over done. Just about every hot shot or cocktail uses a cinnamon-base like Hot Damn or Fireball Whiskey. Bringing the heat without the sweet is a good way to make your cocktail stand out.

You can listen as I try Stoli Hot and see the cocktails I made with it in Episode 9 of Bottoms Up.

 

In case you are wondering, I’ve been playing around with a variety of spirits lately because I am working on making some custom cocktails for Hellapalooza, an ungodly combination of rock n’ roll, burlesque, freakshows, and drinking that is coming to The Southgate House Revival on May 11th. Tonic Tours will have a booth set up so come to the show and say hello.

Henry McKenna 10 Year Bourbon

henrymckenna10

Another week, another bourbon. This time I am reviewing the bottle of 10 year old Henry McKenna I brought back from a recent trip to Louisville. I have tried this bourbon once before, in a flight at the Old Kentucky Bourbon Bar, and although I remember being impressed by the flight as a whole, I couldn’t remember how I had ranked it compared to the others so I was looking forward to opening the bottle and seeing how it stood on its own.

Henry McKenna is put out by Heaven Hill Distillery in Bardstown, Kentucky, the same people who produce Elijah Craig and Evan Williams. The ten year has a really beautiful bottle, including a copper tag telling us it is bottled in bond. That means that it is the product of a single distilling, from a single distiller, has been aged in a certified warehouse, and is 100 proof. According to the website it is the only “extra aged” bottled in bond bourbon in production. It is what I would describe as an affordable top shelf product. The price varies but I paid about $30, which for a 10 year old bourbon is a fair price. It is also a single barrel bourbon, this particular bottle was originally barreled on October 24, 2001 and was barrel #827.

The nose is light. It isn’t one that shows its proof in the nose, which makes the heat this bourbon packs more of a surprise. The smell was more woody than floral. I got notes of maple, cedar, and pine. When you take a sip you get a flash of sweetness on the tongue but the fire comes up quickly and nips it away. The sweetness is not caramel or vanilla but more maple and some light citrus. Don’t blink or you will miss it. Next comes more spiciness. There are notes of black pepper, cedar, but corn and rye make up the bulk of the flavor. Finally it finishes with a nice fire that warms you all the way down and hangs around for awhile after you’ve swallowed.

After trying it neat I added a few drops of chilled water and it opened the bourbon up nicely. I was able to savor the sweetness for a little longer.  Easing the fire allowed me to taste a little more complexity of flavor, especially in the finish.  If you like heat and spice in your bourbon you will probably enjoy this, but do try it with a little water to see how it changes the flavor. It is also worth noting that because it is a single-barrel bourbon each bottle may have slight variations as well, so the next time I try it I could get a subtly different experience.

The changeable nature of bourbon is one of the reasons I love it. Some drinks are like a paved road. The material and the view can vary but over all you will know what you are getting all the way through. Bourbon is more like an unpaved road. The flavor is bumpy and grit, rocks, and dust occasionally get kicked up in your face but it makes it all the more exciting.  When it comes to the Henry McKenna 10 year, I usually like a little more time spent on the sweetness if I am going to have this much heat thrown at me, but I will still take it over a less exciting drink any day.

You can hear Charlie and I trying this bourbon and giving our thoughts on Episode 65 of The Charlie Tonic Hour.